Immune characterization of metastatic colorectal cancer patients post reovirus administration

Ruwan Parakrama, Elisha Fogel, Carol Chandy, Titto Augustine, Matt Coffey, Lydia Tesfa, Sanjay Goel, Sanjay Goel, Radhashree Maitra, Radhashree Maitra, Radhashree Maitra

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14 Scopus citations


Background: KRAS mutations are prevalent in 40-45% of patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) and targeting this gene has remained elusive. Viruses are well known immune sensitizing agents. The therapeutic efficacy of oncolytic reovirus in combination with chemotherapy is examined in a phase 1 study of metastatic CRC. This study evaluates the nature of immune response by determining the cytokine expression pattern in peripheral circulation along with the distribution of antigen presenting cells (APCs) and activated T lymphocytes. Further the study evaluates the alterations in exosomal and cellular microRNA levels along with the effect of reovirus on leukocyte transcriptome. Methods: Reovirus was administered as a 60-min intravenous infusion for 5 consecutive days every 28 days, at a tissue culture infective dose (TCID50) of 3 × 1010. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were isolated from whole blood prior to reovirus administration and post-reovirus on days 2, 8, and 15. The expression profile of 25 cytokines in plasma was assessed (post PBMC isolation) on an EMD Millipore multiplex Luminex platform. Exosome and cellular levels of miR-29a-3p was determined in pre and post reovirus treated samples. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were stained with fluorophore labelled antibodies against CD4, CD8, CD56, CD70, and CD123, fixed and evaluated by flow cytometry. The expression of granzyme B was determined on core biopsy of one patient. Finally, Clariom D Assay was used to determine the expression of 847 immune-related genes when compared to pre reovirus treatment by RNA sequencing analysis. A change was considered if the expression level either doubled or halved and the significance was determined at a p value of 0.001. Results: Cytokine assay indicated upregulation at day 8 for IL-12p40 (2.95; p = 0.05); day 15 for GM-CSF (3.56; p = 0.009), IFN-y (1.86; p = 0.0004) and IL-12p70 (2.42; p = 0.02). An overall reduction in IL-8, VEGF and RANTES/CCL5 was observed over the 15-day period. Statistically significant reductions were observed at Day 15 for IL-8 (0.457-fold, 53.3% reduction; p = 0.03) and RANTES/CC5 (0.524-fold, 47.6% reduction; p = 0.003). An overall increase in IL-6 was observed, with statistical significance at day 8 (1.98- fold; 98% increase, p = 0.00007). APCs were stimulated within 48 h and activated (CD8+ CD70+) T cells within 168 h as determine by flow cytometry. Sustained reductions in exosomal and cellular levels of miR-29a-3p (a microRNA upregulated in CRC and associated with decreased expression of the tumor suppressor WWOX gene) was documented. Reovirus administration further resulted in increases in KRAS (33x), IFNAR1 (20x), STAT3(5x), and TAP1 (4x) genes after 2 days; FGCR2A (23x) and CD244 (3x) after 8 days; KLRD1 (14x), TAP1 (2x) and CD244(2x) after 15 days. Reductions (> 0.5x) were observed in VEGFA (2x) after 2 days; CXCR2 (2x), ITGAM (3x) after 15 days. Conclusions: Reovirus has profound immunomodulatory properties that span the genomic, protein and immune cell distribution levels. This is the first study with reovirus in cancer patients that demonstrates these multi- layered effects, demonstrating how reovirus can function as an immune stimulant (augmenting the efficacy of immuno-chemo-therapeutic drugs), and an oncolytic agent. Reovirus thus functions bimodally as an oncolytic agent causing lysis of tumor cells, and facilitator of immune-mediated recognition and destruction of tumor cells. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number569
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 18 2020


  • CD8 +
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Immune profile
  • KRAS
  • Reovirus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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